I want to once again thank everyone for their support and words of wisdom, during my mom’s passing. Hearing from you all really helped to keep me in good spirits!
With this issue I would like to get back to writing about my life in Japan.
Lately there’s been a small flurry of activity on the Seishindo Facebook page, and I would like to encourage you to join in the conversation.
You can find us by going here-
2. The three hearts of a Japanese man
Well it’s Friday night and I’m pretty certain my friend Tabata-san will be hanging out at the usual place. So I decide to go have a talk and perhaps a beer as well.
Sure enough, I find him sitting with a couple of young men telling them what Judo used to be like in the old days.
I wait patiently for an opening in the conversation, as I want to ask Tabata-san to talk more about a previous topic. His experience of being a Japanese man.
Before I have the opportunity to ask, Tabata-san reads my mind and starts telling the two young men what we’d discussed the last time out. Soon, the conversation segues into him talking about “the three hearts of a Japanese man”.
“You see,” he said, “Being a Japanese man is not a simple matter, even though life would be more enjoyable if it was.”
“In order to make my way in the world, myself, and I believe most Japanese men my age, find it necessary to maintain and nourish three hearts instead of just one.”
“The first and most important heart I have is my private heart. The feelings I hold in this heart I don’t share with anyone. With the exception being when I’ve had one too many beers.” he says with a broad smile suddenly appearing on his face.
“I rarely share my true feelings with anyone, because to do so would only tend to cause complications and misunderstandings. This is a fact of life most every Japanese man comes to realize and live with over time.”
“My second heart” Tabata-san says after a brief pause, “Is my business heart.”
“This is the heart that makes it possible for me to earn a living and make my way in the world.”
“At work, you soon realize your superiors aren’t interested in hearing what you hold in this heart. When your boss asks you ‘What do you think of this idea?’ what’s most important is that you save him from the embarrassment of being wrong. So almost always you say, ‘Oh wow, what a great idea!’ If you’re really clever, you’ll be able to correct the weaknesses in his strategy, while having him think he came up with the changes.”
“Freedom of speech, as it’s guaranteed in the American constitution, is only granted in Japanese business circles after consuming a few beers. Drinking gives you the opportunity to share some of what you’ve been hiding. Everyone understands that whatever you say to your boss while drinking, is forgiven and forgotten the next day. Or at least that’s the way it is in the company I’ve worked in for the last thirty-eight years.”
Tabata-san pauses to see if we’re still interested, and when I nod my head enthusiastically, he continues.
“Finally, I’m left with my family heart, and I attend to this heart only after taking care of the other two.”
“With my family heart I speak the words, bear the responsibilities, and perform the tasks every good husband and father is meant to. What’s most important in this regard, is maintaining the spirit of support and hard work that will lead to my children doing well in the world. I’m usually too busy and tired to do all that much with my family, but that’s rarely a problem because I have my wife to tell me what to do and say, and when.”
“Well, there you have it.” Tabata-san said, “Charlie-san you’ve invited me to explore the rewards of sharing my private heart, and I must say I’m still concerned about being misunderstood, or ridiculed. But you’re right, it’s quite fantastic to discover most of the people around me, have the same hopes and fears as me!”